The Influence of Parents & Teachers on Cognitive Development

Children seem to develop cognitively at a remarkable speed, and they seemingly do so without much input from parents or teachers. However, both conscious and unconscious efforts to spur cognitive thinking enhance a child’s cognitive development. From actively pushing children toward cognitively engaging behaviors to the simple act of playing with a child, parents and teachers boost the cognitive development process in their children.

The Art of Teaching: Pushing Children to Think

Parents and teachers share one commonality: They both teach. This goes without saying for teachers, but whether parents realize it or not, the parent is an important teacher of cognitive skills. Both in playing the role model and in engaging in parent-child discussions, parents educate their children on problem-solving, critical thinking skills and self-control -- all cognitively engaging tasks. From the standpoint of general cognitive growth, both parents and teachers push children in a direction in which using their brains is essential. Without parents or teachers, children would be mostly left on their own to develop their cognitive skill sets, which is unlikely to happen given the natural human tendency of spending as little energy as possible.

Sweeping Away Negative Emotions, Inviting Cognitive Development

Parents and children also play an important role in helping children free up cognitive resources. According to the article “Long-term effects of parental divorce on parent-child relationships,” which appeared in the Journal of Family Psychology, because:

  • stress gets in the way of cognitive development
  • this role is especially important for growing children [2](# 'inline-reference::Long-term effects of parental divorce on parent-child relationships
  • adjustment,
  • achievement in young adulthood; Journal of Family Psychology; Nicholas Zill
  • et al.')

A harmonious home and classroom can alleviate the emotional stress, an often overlooked cognitive burden, allowing children to better focus on cognitive tasks. In fact, freedom from emotional stress is so important that the study in the Journal of Family Psychology found that children with large amounts of relationship problems tend to have lower grades than their more emotionally stable peers.

Think Before You Act

Part of cognitive development is related to the development of understanding social situations and acquiring the appropriate actions to deal with others. Unfortunately, this aspect of cognitive development cannot be learned without outside influences, namely adult role-models such as parents and teachers. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services points out that father plays an integral role in shaping a child’s ability to act prosaically. Likewise, the morals mothers and teachers instill help a child be more conscious of how her behaviors affect others. In this respect, parents and teachers have an important responsibility of paying attention to their own actions, lest children pick up adults’ bad habits.

Playing Yields Smart Kids

Adult-to-children play is a hidden method of encouraging cognitive development. Unlike peer-to-peer play, which is characterized by pretending, adult-to-child play tends to be characterized either by cognitive engagement or emotional engagement. For example, mothers tend to engage in educational games with their children, solving puzzles or playing story games. Fathers tend to engage in emotionally intense games, such as playing “airplane” or fast-past outdoor games. Teachers also use games in the classroom, mixing education with emotion such as through class competitions. All of these forms of play indirectly force children to engage in cognitive thinking at a level they would not reach playing with their peers.

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